Fantasy Update: Toyota Stays Hot in Charlotte

Toyota entered Charlotte with a bang, dominating the final mile-and-a-half points-paying race at Kansas two weeks ago. In last week’s All-Star Race, the manufacturer wasn’t bad either, with Denny Hamlin fighting for the win in a green, white checkered finish. In qualifying on Saturday, five of the 10 drivers who advanced to the final round drove Toyotas. Do you see a theme?

Dustin Albino’s race day lineup:

Starter 1: Denny Hamlin
Starter 2: Kyle Busch
Starter 3: Kurt Busch
Starter 4: Martin Truex Jr.
Headline 5: William Byron
Garage Pick: Kyle Larson

MORE: Set up your lineup | starting lineup

NEXT IN LINE: Christopher Bell, Bubba Wallace, Tyler Reddick, Alex Bowman

GROWING: Denny Hamlin had never won the Coca-Cola 600 before, but he came close on multiple occasions. And despite his rocky start to the season – just two top-10 finishes in 13 races – this could be his best chance yet, as the No. 11 car won pole. At some point, the No. 11 team that did the previous three Championship 4 races needs to find consistency in 2022; we could be on the precipice.

Based on how much Tyler Reddick flirts with danger by running the wall, I could see why you’d want to stay away from him this weekend. He’s bitten it before, but it’s also earned him two Xfinity Series championships. Given that the outside line has been dominant so far this weekend, this race could fall squarely in Reddick’s wheelhouse, and he could become the eighth driver to win his first Cup race in the Coca-Cola 600.

FALLING: Kyle Larson entered the weekend as the race favourite, having crushed the field in last year’s Coca-Cola 600, leading 327 laps. The No. 5 team’s chance to defend its Coca-Cola 600 crown this year just got a whole lot harder, as Larson hit the wall in practice after hitting the rev limiter. He was first on the scoring pylon when he made contact, so we know the No. 5 car has speed, but Larson will have to start from the back.

The 2022 season has been like a rollercoaster ride for Austin Dillon, earning six top-10 finishes but also five finishes outside the top-20 in 13 races. That also sums up his Saturday night in Charlotte. The No. 3 car was 33rd in practice, more than a second off the fastest lap. Dillon improved to 16th in the standings, but both Dillon and Reddick have mentioned steering issues in recent weeks which is cause for concern.

FEATURED MEETINGS:

Kyle Busch vs. Kyle Larson: Collectively, these are all tough matchups this weekend. This might be the hardest to predict, based on how well each driver runs at Charlotte. The slight edge has to go to the No. 18 team, as Toyota has backed their speed at Kansas thus far. Busch was in position to win that race, and last year he was the only driver to finish in the top five in the Coca-Cola 600 not under the Hendrick Motorsports banner.

Chase Elliott vs. Martin Truex Jr.: While Elliott has three consecutive top-two finishes at Charlotte, Truex is sure to win a race in the coming weeks. While it may not be this weekend, he is part of the Toyota brigade that has been quick so far. Of course, he was the only Toyota driver to miss the second qualifying round.

Ryan Blaney vs. Kurt Busch: When Busch gets hot, he often stays hot. At Kansas Speedway, his No. 45 car was dominant, and many of those traits carried over to Charlotte. Busch is the pick.

Daniel Suarez vs. Bubba Wallace: Earlier in the week, Suarez probably would have gotten the upper hand on Wallace. But given that the No. 23 team made it to the final round of qualifying for just the third time this season, Wallace has a fast Toyota and he had arguably the best car at Kansas two weeks ago. Do you want to go out on a limb? Wallace scores a top five on Sunday night.

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